It’s weeks like this that reaffirm to me that Arrow is one of the best genre shows on TV. While I think it’d be better served by a shorter, more cable-like season (which is true for everything, I think), when it hits, it hits hard, and an episode like this week’s “Canaries” did so much for so many characters. There wasn’t a wasted subplot or story element. There wasn’t a wasted scene, really. Well, except for the Flashbacks, which I will yet again state that I think are played out. Once again, Laurel has been pushed to the forefront (which is a good thing finally) and Oliver is having to deal with new status quos, some in which he’s pleasantly surprised, and some he’s not so much. All around, though, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season.
For Oliver, who is often one of the most pigheaded people on TV, this episode was all about learning where things are now. Following his decision to team up with Malcolm Merlyn last week, and Felicity’s assertion that she doesn’t want to be a woman Oliver loves, things are very much up in the air for our tortured archer. But while his family situation starts to get better, his relationship with his team had to be put to the test, to prove that while he might be the leader of the team, he’s not the dictator.
Malcolm convinces him that, in order to properly protect Thea from Ra’s al Ghul, they have to tell her who Oliver really is. Diggle asserts that this will make Oliver lose her forever. Way to be all doom and gloom there, Dig. Oliver’s ready for the worst when he brings Thea to the basement of Verdant to show her the Arrow Cave. When he flips on the power and everything boots up, she’s astonished. She’s finally seen what is probably one of the more obvious things in her life: that her brother has been the vigilante the whole time. But, exactly the opposite of what he expected, Thea isn’t mad at all. She’s happy, she’s relieved, she’s proud, she understands. After everything that’s happened, it makes so much more sense to her that her brother is the Arrow than that he’s just a douche who flakes on her all the time.
And for Thea, this brings her much closer to Ollie, because she now knows exactly what he is, and she knows that he knows what she is, and she knows that Malcolm knows all of it. But, that also makes her realize how duplicitous her biological father is and she won’t ever trust him again. Which is probably good, especially considering he made her unconsciously murder Sara. Personally, I could not be happier that Thea is FINALLY in the fold. She’s been in the dark like a dumbo for such a long time and she’s become a really interesting character so it only seemed right. Plus, Oliver calls her Speedy about 1000 times in this episode, so I can only assume she’ll have a mask and an archery set before too long. Lotta archers.
Speaking of archers, Roy now seems to be reconnecting with Thea a lot better than he had, and now that she knows the truth, they’re very chummy again. But he’s pretty jealous of Chase, her incredibly skeevy DJ-turned-lover who also happens to be a member of the League of Assassins. This guy sucks. I’m really happy he got dispatched in this episode, after trying to poison Thea with red wine following an impromptu bone-down. Luckily Roy, and yes Malcolm too, come in and save her, but Chase then poisons himself to death, which is pretty gross. What a stupid character.
Laurel is continuing to fight on the side of right in the Canary outfit, but Oliver is really not happy about this. He’s trying to be protective, but sometimes people don’t need protecting. When the new Count Vertigo (guest star Peter Stormare) escapes, Laurel punches the drugged-up, pistol-happy prison guard, which makes her the talk of the town. But her father’s starting to piece together the truth about Sara (very slowly) and Oliver still isn’t a fan of her trying to be Sara, calling her an addict again, this time for danger. That’s a real dick move, Ollie. Roy, Diggle, and Felicity all know that Laurel’s heart’s in the right place, and she’s being proactive, but Oliver still thinks he needs to protect her.
And, kind of, he does. He puts a tracker on her and knows that she’s going to try to find Vertigo, which she does by the docks. She’s dosed with Vertigo almost immediately, just as he did to Oliver in the premiere, and she sees an angry image of Sara fighting her, calling her an impostor and a fraud. She gets the snot beat out of her and Oliver and Roy have to show up in the nick of time. They take her back to the Arrow Cave where they give her an antidote, but she’s way out of it. Thea comes down and sees everything messed up, and Oliver yells at her to leave, which Roy yells at him about. When Thea does leave, Oliver’s all “What the hell, brah?!” This is where we get to the real meat of the issue:
Oliver still thinks he’s leading the team as he did before, without taking into account that Roy, Felicity, Diggle, and Laurel had to protect the city entirely during his absence, or more accurately his death. Roy and Felicity lay into him hard about this being everybody’s fight and not just his, and even Diggle does his big-brotherly thing and tells Oliver that Laurel’s been carrying a lot of the burden in his absence. While not happy about it, he seems at least willing to allow it.
Laurel and Felicity have another really nice moment, where Laurel, after waking up from her drug stupor, talks about her insecurities and what the Vertigo version of Sara said to her. She’s filled with a lot of self-doubt, but Felicity says she shouldn’t try to be Sara, but just be the Canary the way she already is. I love these scenes because it’s necessary to show that Laurel and Felicity can be friends and not just regard each other as possible rivals for Oliver’s affection. Plus, they just had a whole scene where they didn’t talk about Oliver once. That’s amazing.
Oliver takes Laurel with him to find Vertigo again, this time at a laboratory where he’s got scientists chained up to do the work, not unlike Jesse Pinkman in the last season of Breaking Bad. Fun reference. Vertigo blows up the lab and while Oliver attempts to get the scientists out, Laurel goes after Vertigo himself, but she gets dosed again, only this time instead of just Sara, she sees her father in the visions too, yelling at her for lying to him, etc. But through this fight, she decides it’s time to woman-up and be her own hero, ending with her beating the snot out of Vertigo and a non-Canary vision of Sara smiling at her, nodding to her, a passing of the torch.
She does eventually have to tell her father the truth, which he does not take very well, of course, but at least he knows that Laurel is the Canary, so after the grief of having lost his daughter yet again, he might settle down. Or he might just be the most frantic dad in history since his only remaining offspring has decided to do the very thing that got his other daughter killed. We’ll see, I guess!
The episode ends with Merlyn telling Oliver and Thea to go on a little getaway training mission. Even though Oliver literally just got back, he says that this’ll only be for a few days, and he knows Starling City is in good hands. He and Thea travel to, of all places, THE ISLAND! which is convenient because in the dumb flashbacks this week, Oliver and Maseo get taken by Amanda Waller to do a job…in STARLING CITY! So next week, things go flippity flop and from the promo for episode 14, “The Return,” it looks like they’re going to have to deal with a lot more things on the Island than just mosquitoes.
I think they’re doing a really amazing job this season of pulling all the disparate character arcs together and giving each member of the cast something to do. Granted, Ray Palmer wasn’t even in this episode, and so Felicity felt a little sidelined, but since she’s at the forefront of a lot of plotlines, it’s not a bad thing to give her a break. Really loving Laurel’s progression from the most annoying character on this or any show to a do-it-yourself heroine with her own strength and poise. She’s learning, she’s not perfect, but she’s getting there and doing the best she can. I ADORE that they revealed the truth to Thea, finally, meaning it’s really only Captain Lance who doesn’t know much. But, he’s a police detective, so he probably SHOULD have put more of it together before now. So far, “Canaries” is probably in my top three episodes of the season. Everything just came together so nicely. Can’t wait to see what the back 9 give us.